Today I've been reflecting on one of the great paradoxes of the spiritual life:
The more we set boundaries on our time and attention - by creating and adhering to a disciplined rule of life - the more vast and spacious our mind and heart are able to become! Disciplines like silence, solitude, meditation, fasting for set periods from social media, and putting the phone on airplane mode are all examples of disciplines which help create these boundaries. Carl Jung puts it this way:
"What America needs is one great healthy ability to say 'No.' To rest a minute and realize that many of the things being sought are unnecessary to a happy life. We are suffering in our cities, from a need of simple things."
When we set these sorts of boundaries, our spiritual creativity then comes alive, enabling our imaginative capacities a wide-open expanse in which to roam and create fresh meaning for our lives. Just as the narrow tube of a geyser is needed to allow the pressure to build that will result in an explosion of steam and super-heated water out into the vast blue sky, so the boundaries created by a rule of life facilitate a similar movement outward into vastness.
Tibetan Buddhist teaching has its own way of saying this, reminding us that the practice of "mindfulness of the body" leads to "spaciousness of mind." Similarly, Eastern Orthodox Christian contemplatives recommend the practice of "confining the mind within the heart" as a means of producing a physically-perceived warmth in the heart which is ONE-WITH the vast and all-encompassing love of Christ that extends throughout the entire universe!
May each of us attend to developing our own unique rule of life, and so experience the freedom of this vastness!
Photo: Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, WY, Summer, 2011
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.